OP-ED: The Resolution Revolution

PERSPECTIVES

Op-Ed by PETER MAURER

Resolutions are like revolutions – they start out sounding like good ideas, and then quickly fall apart, leaving a bunch of sad and dejected people in their wake.

I must admit that the simple idea of changing something about your life at the beginning of a new year has very definite appeal, but my observations of people over time suggest that fundamental parts of personalities don’t change all that much. If you are a procrastinator now, chances are you’ll always be a procrastinator. And if you’re a generous and kind person, well, it’s likely you’re always going to be kind and generous. Although I suppose there are instances in which people truly have changed something about themselves, the fact that we all remember those instances should tell us just how unusual and rare they truly are.

Change is hard, a lot like centrifugal and centripetal forces in nature. The faster the object is moving, the harder it is for it to turn a corner. Cyclists know this. Motorcyclists know this. In fact, all of us, except a certain subset of 16- year-old drivers behind the wheel of daddy’s 2018 Dodge Charger, know this.

Most of us are creatures of habit, and nothing is more difficult than breaking a habit, especially bad habits. Smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, junk food, a sedentary lifestyle, laziness, shopping, and other things are the most-often promised resolutions… and also the most-often broken.

We human beings are evolutionarily hard-wired to be efficient, to take the shortest path possible. It frees up time for other things, energy that could be devoted to pursuits that give us a better chance at survival. That’s why ordering pizza or microwaving a frozen lasagna is so tempting – it gives us more time for something else we’d rather do.

But many of us have taken that approach to an extreme, despite the consequences to our health, relationships, and finances. The lure of the easy path is too tempting, and once that bad habit is established, it takes an enormous commitment to change. And so, every December 31st, at the stroke of midnight, people cheer, dance, make a toast to the New Year, sing Auld Lang Syne, kiss their partners along with total strangers, and make their resolutions. They’ll vow that this year is the year that they finally lose that 20 pounds, eat healthily, quit smoking, exercise, go to the gym, quit swearing, chewing their fingernails, go back to school, and thousands of other things that only they know they shouldn’t do.

And most of those people have honorable intentions, too.

Gym memberships skyrocket in January, as does the attendance. Smoking cessation programs, and AA meetings both experience far higher numbers at the beginning of the year than they do 10 or 11 months later.

But human nature is a powerful force, not unlike gravity, and like gravity, most things eventually get pulled back to Earth.

Only the most enormous amounts of energy result in something overcoming gravity, such as rockets and astronauts. And in a way, you can be that astronaut, the one out of millions who manages to beat the odds and gets launched into orbit with the help of all that rocket-fuel-energy. It really comes down to will power, and I find that will power seems to be one of those fundamental parts of personality I talked about earlier, the things that generally don’t change over a lifetime.

Either you have it or you don’t, whether by nature or nurture, or both. But don’t let me discourage you. You keep trying and trying, and eventually you’ll find the way to achieve your resolution. In fact, that only thing you should never stop trying is trying. It will make success that much sweeter!

Email the author at Gazetteguy@yahoo.com or send a letter to the editor at Andrew@gazettemediagroup.com